SCOTUS to weigh whether it will hear, expedite key Obamacare case

The Supreme Court may take up a case that could kill off Obamacare, and it may do so in advance of the election in November.

The high court will meet on Feb. 21 to decide whether and when to hear the case, which is currently working its way through lower courts, the Daily Caller’s Kevin Daley reported. The Trump administration is asking the justices to ignore demands from Democrats to expedite the case so that it can be settled by June.

ACA in the balance

The case at issue, Texas v. Azar, hinges on whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains viable in its entirety after Congress, in 2017, reduced the penalty imposed by the mandate on the uninsured to zero. Republican states, led by Texas, challenged the constitutionality of the mandate itself, and a federal appeals court struck it down in December of 2019.

The issue left unresolved by the lower court, however, is that of “severability,” or whether Obamacare can still stand without the mandate. Republicans maintain that the mandate was central to the ACA and that the whole law must be repealed as a result of its absence. While Democrats are urging the Supreme Court to take up the case and settle it as soon as possible, the Trump administration has called on the Supreme Court to let the case wind its way through lower courts first.

For the case to be resolved by June, as the Democrats want, then the high court would need to hear arguments this spring. It is more likely that the justices will wait until the next term — after the 2020 election — but it remains unclear what the court will ultimately decide.

“A schedule that aggressive is extremely unlikely,” Case Western Reserve University School of Law professor Jonathan Adler told the Daily Caller. “If they take the case now, it’s likely to be heard in the fall.”

Dems urge expedited hearing

Democrats have made defending Obamacare a core priority and attacking Trump’s desire to repeal it as an important part of their messaging. They want the Supreme Court to eliminate uncertainty for those on the health insurance marketplace, but presumably they are also eager to use Trump’s threats against the landmark law against him in November’s election, the Washington Examiner notes.

“This is not a case where the court of appeals remanded for further factfinding, or for some other reason necessitating additional proceedings in the district court,” read a petition in support of expediting the case. “The only reason this case is not final is because the panel majority declined to resolve the severability issue and instead ‘remanded for a do-over.’ But severability is a legal question.”

The Supreme Court denied the petition in January. Meanwhile, Solicitor General Noel Francisco has asked the high court to wait the case out:

If the Court were to grant review of the severability question now, it would have to confront the severability of statutory provisions spanning 900 pages without the benefit of any decision from the court of appeals on that question, or of a decision from the district court applying the more granular analysis that the court of appeals prescribed. The appropriate course is instead to defer any review in this Court until after the district court has completed its reassessment of severability.

Healthcare fight looms

Trump entered office promising to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but those efforts have been met with considerable resistance. At his State of the Union address on Tuesday, the president said that he would “always” protect people with pre-existing conditions, a claim on which Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) seized to dismiss Trump’s speech as a “manifesto” of lies.

“It was quite appalling to hear the president say the 150 at least million families in America that are faced with preexisting conditions. A benefit that is afforded to them in the Affordable Care Act that he was protecting that benefit when, in fact, he has done everything to dismantle it,” she said.

As impeachment madness dies down, an Obamacare fight could soon heat up in an election year. Whatever the court decides, Democrats will certainly hammer Trump on the issue if they believe it will yield dividends at the polls.

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